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Graveyard Rabbits

Updated on April 30, 2015

The Graveyard Rabbit by Frank Lebby Stanton

The Graveyard Rabbit

In the white moonlight, where the willow waves,
He halfway gallops among the graves—
A tiny ghost in the gloom and gleam,
Content to dwell where the dead men dream,

But wary still!
For they plot him ill;
For the graveyard rabbit hath a charm
(May God defend us!) to shield from harm.

Over the shimmering slabs he goes—
Every grave in the dark he knows;
But his nest is hidden from human eye
Where headstones broken on old graves lie.

Wary still!
For they plot him ill;
For the graveyard rabbit, though sceptics scoff,
Charmeth the witch and the wizard off!

The black man creeps, when the night is dim,
Fearful, still, on the track of him;
Or fleetly follows the way he runs,
For he heals the hurts of the conjured ones.

Wary still!
For they plot him ill;
The soul’s bewitched that would find release,—
To the graveyard rabbit go for peace!

He holds their secret—he brings a boon
Where winds moan wild in the dark o’ the moon;
And gold shall glitter and love smile sweet
To whoever shall sever his furry feet!

Wary still!
For they plot him ill;
For the graveyard rabbit hath a charm
(May God defend us!) to shield from harm.

The Association

Basically we are a group of people who love graveyards. My love of them started when I was just a child. They mystery surrounding those quiet, well tended places. The history of the plots. The lives that were led by those interred and the way that those lives were venerated by the plot builders. Each marker a story unto itself. You can actually tell a lot by the older grave markers. The *trend* of the time era when the person died. The customs of those that buried them. It's a fascinating subject just from a social point of view, never mind the architecture.

So, it makes sense that like minded people would want to share their passion for the graveyards and Terry Thornton decided to create an association wherein that could happen. The Association of Graveyard Rabbits. He talks about it in his blog, so I won't go over it again here. Needless to say, I was happy to find them. Even more of an excuse to roam around and take pictures of headstones.

My intention is to travel locally, take pictures, and then research the background of each graveyard or cemetery. I'm not from this area, so it will be a great adventure and a fantastic way to learn local history, legends and families. Who knows, I may even discover a haunting or two!

Highgate Cemetery - London

One of my all time favourites. I was fortunate to do the guided tour a few years ago. What a history! Opened in 1839, it was one of seven cemeteries opened for private burial. In truth the upper classes were no more inclined to spent the afterlife with the lesser beings [working classes], than they were inclined to associate with them in their living world. It became very socially trendy for wealthy families to build huge memorials and crypts that reflected their status and place in the world. A type of immortality could be achieved by having the biggest and most long lasting vault.

One of the most interesting things about these cemeteries is that they were 'themed'. Very elaborate designs reflected such things as Egyptian tombs, obelisks, pillared vaults and the famous family vault that features a live Cedar of Lebanon growing in the middle. Cedar of Lebanon trees have roots that will not disrupt the surrounding graves and were often used in cemeteries for that reason.

Engraving from Knight 176, showing the Western Cemetery as it was in the early 1840s. [Scan by JB.]
Engraving from Knight 176, showing the Western Cemetery as it was in the early 1840s. [Scan by JB.]

The Vampires of Highgate

One of the lesser known attributes of the cemetery was the big Vampire Scare in the 1970s. Two men Seán Manchester and David Farrant, each claimed that the cemetery was inhabited by a sort of King of the Vampires and that they had witnessed supernatural activities there. Basically in the form of a Romanian nobleman who had bought a large house near there and subsequently buried under the cemetery. They claimed that Satanists had awoken said Vampire.

The two men were passionate in their rivalry, each claiming that only he could defeat this creature. The ensuing media covered battle between them culminated in a televised Vampire Hunt. Despite the efforts of local police, many hunters swarmed the cemetery and much damage was done. I've seen this damage with my own eyes. It makes the whole thing much more spooky when you are looking at a damaged coffin and it's inhabitant has a stake through what would have been it's heart.

This story continued until police found a charred corpse of a young woman in the cemetery and they declared that satanic rituals had taken place. Farrant went to jail for the desecration and damages done to the cemetery. Both men wrote books and insisted they did no damage, that another group were responsible for that.


Graveyard Symbolism

  • Anchor and Chain: symbolises firm faith in salvation
  • Bird (often a dove)
  • Flying down: with Holy Spirit
  • Flying up: the spirit ascending
  • Perched: like Noah's dove after the flood
  • Book: The Testament, often open at a suitable page
  • Broken column: cut off in the prime of life or a loss of support, often denotes head of the family.
  • Broken or severed flower: A sign or early or sudden death. A severed bud denotes a child.
  • Butterfly: A symbol of resurrection
  • Celtic cross: Originally associated with the pre-Norman Church particularly in the Celtic fringe areas.
  • Circle: The sign of eternity.
  • Clasped hands: Found on family graves and symbolising either the hope of reunification in the next life or 'Farewell, see you soon.'
  • Gate or arch: Gateway to Heaven.
  • Heart: Love and devotion.
  • Hour-glass: The transience of this life.
  • IHS The sacred monogram: an abbreviation of the word for Jesus in Greek.
  • Ivy: Memories remaining evergreen.
  • Lamp: The light of knowledge and truth.
  • Laurel: Wreath Accolade to life's achievements.
  • Lily: Purity
  • Lyre: (harp) A recognition of musical talents.
  • Obelisk: A tall rectangular or triangular pointed column which is the ancient Egyptian symbol for life and health.
  • Palette: and brushes The artist's accolade.
  • Palm: Symbolises the triumph of life over death through resurrection.
  • Rocks: A reminder of St Peter, the rock of faith.
  • Rose: Goodness and innocence.
  • Serpent: Ancient Egyptian symbol for life and health. Swallowing tail: life eternal
  • Set square and compasses: Usually a Masonic mark but also used to denote an architect.
  • Torch: The human being.
  • Tree: The tree of life
  • Upright: Human Life Entwined by snake: Health Inverted: Life extinguished (hence 'snuffed out')
  • Urn: Symbol of death copied from cinerary urns of antiquity.
  • Wheat Gathered: (harvested) into a new life, often denotes someone dying in later life.
  • Willow tree: Mourning.
  • Yew tree: evergreen, life after death

Are you a GR?

Would you spend a night in a Graveyard?

See results


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